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Comcast contract to end, UMTV to continue

The University of Miami’s dorms, medical school hospital rooms and on-campus facilities, could soon see better cable television service and an increase in channels like ESPNU. The school is looking into terminating its contract with cable service provider Comcast.

Yet, this termination may affect the way UMTV, the school’s student-run TV station, is broadcast. The current contract with Comcast gives UMTV Comcast’s Channel 96, one of the City of Coral Gables’ public, educational and government-access channels.

While the student-run television station may need to change its distribution method, the school has no intention of shutting it down.

“UMTV will continue to be a major anchoring component of our curriculum in electronic media,” said Sam Grogg, dean of the School of Communication, out of which UMTV operates.

The School of Communication is currently looking at other options like broadcasting on a local PBS affiliate, securing a channel on another cable provider or moving to a distribution method that would rely primarily on streaming over the Internet, in the event that the university severs ties with Comcast.

However, they are working strongly toward keeping UMTV broadcasting in the community. According to Dr. Terry Bloom, the program director for the SoC’s electronic media department, many electronic media and broadcast journalism classes require participation in UMTV shows as part of their curriculum, and broadcasting practice is a requirement for these students to win awards.

To Bloom, airing shows in the community also adds a professional dimension to the programming.
“There’s a huge difference to say to prospective students, ‘go play in the studios’ than to say ‘go play in the studios and produce a TV show for an audience,’” she said.

UM graduate Brad Gage, who is now a production coordinator for “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” said the process on the professional set is almost the same as it was at UMTV.

“UMTV gave me the confidence to know how a show is put together,” said Gage, who graduated in 2009 and worked on the UMTV comedy show “Off The Wire.”

While Gage believes that the station gives meaning to the broadcast program at UM, he said the most important viewership comes from online streaming.

“Most people are watching online, it’s the future of the content anyway,” he said.

On the other hand, senior Ashley-Brooke Silver, who works on “Canes Eye View” and “UMTV Today,” feels the school should fight to keep the station on-air.

“I feel like it’s more of a real show when we are on-air and more people can watch than just the UM community,” Silver said.

The university’s contract with Comcast will expire in August, but if no decision has been reached to break it by May, the contract will be automatically renewed for another year, giving UMTV more time to find alternative ways to broadcast.

“We want to continue to be a voice in the community,” Grogg said. “We just have to wait and see how the negotiations go before we can determine what will happen.”

Alexandra Leon may be contacted at aleon@themiamihurricane.com.

March 2, 2011

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Alexandra Leon

Senior News Writer


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